Germany is monitoring Bulgaria’s effort to fight crime and corruption and supports its bid to join the 25-nation Schengen Zone that allows passport-free travel in most of the European Union, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said. The German premier arrived at the Bulgarian capital Sofia today to discuss bilateral projects and Bulgaria’s plan to become a Schengen member, along with neighboring Romania, in March 2011.
“We will evaluate the readiness of each country to join the Schengen Zone depending on how well it has covered the list of criteria,” Merkel told reporters. “Germany supports Bulgaria’s efforts to join the Schengen Zone.”
The two Black Sea countries, which entered the EU in 2007, would follow eight other former communist countries that became Schengen members on Dec. 18, 2007, as the EU expands its influence east and gives its newest members increased rights within the EU.
The European Commission, the EU’s Brussels-based executive arm, is expected to assess in November whether Bulgaria and Romania are ready to take the Schengen step in the planned timeframe, Merkel said.
The two newest EU states are set to receive 45 billion euros ($60 billion) of EU aid in part to improve infrastructure to EU levels, including security systems. The most important issue is to ensure the supremacy of law, so that people outside the Schengen area cannot obtain Schengen zone visas through corruption.